27 December 2007

Downtown Shopping vs Mall vs Lifestyle Center

The Economist gives their know-it-all summary to the history of the American Mall. Entertaining article with some interesting tidbits of information here and there:


...
America now has some 1,100 enclosed shopping malls, according to the International Council of Shopping Centres. Clones have appeared from Chennai to Martinique. Yet the mall's story is far from triumphal. Invented by a European socialist who hated cars and came to deride his own creation, it has a murky future. While malls continue to multiply outside America, they are gradually dying in the country that pioneered them.

.... his shops were like mousetraps. A few years later the same would be said of his shopping malls.
....
Oddly, this most suburban American invention was supposed to evoke a European city centre. .... shoppers were expected to sit and debate over cups of coffee, just as they do in the Piazza San Marco or the Place Dauphine.
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In 1998 Good Housekeeping ran a story entitled “Danger at the Mall”. Indoor shopping malls are now so out of favour that not one will be built in America before 2009 at the earliest, according to the International Council of Shopping Centres.
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So many malls have died or are dying that a new hobby has appeared: amateur shopping-mall history. ...One of the most touching is a website devoted to Lakehurst mall near Chicago, which was demolished in 2004. Prodded by a local journalist, women and a few men write in with memories of back-to-school shopping trips, ear piercings, first jobs at Cinnabon and Orange Julius, early dates and even marriage proposals. Many are bereft at the mall's demolition, as though suffering the death of a pet. “You don't realise how much you miss something until it is gone,” writes one. Others are almost apologetic: “If only we knew what we had, we would never have strayed to other malls.”
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Mr Caruso believes that people are naturally gregarious, and that America has failed to provide them with places that meet their social needs. Like Gruen, he claims to be trying to create not just profitable shopping places but also more perfect city centres.
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He has tried to re-create a kind of prelapsarian downtown where there is no crime or homelessness. His romantic evocations of city centres are possible only because people have forgotten what downtowns used to be like. And they have forgotten, of course, largely because of the suburban shopping malls that Gruen built. It was necessary to kill the American city centre before bringing it back to life.

1 comment:

BandJeff said...

The irony of driving to the mall, fighting the narrow lanes to park, walking the half mile to finally be IN the mall, then finding a spot next to an artifical ficus, lame-o water fountain, only then to be in a position to pretend that you're in a city square somewhere. That's some kinda livin'